German-Egyptian activist arrested and held in secret location

الإثنين 09 شباط 2009

As Jordanian bloggers and media activists, we stand in solidarity with Philip and join the growing number of voices calling for his immediate release.

The Associated Press
February 8, 2009

CAIRO: Egyptian police have arrested a German-Egyptian graduate student after a rally in support of the Palestinians in Gaza and are holding him in a secret location, a fellow activist said Sunday. Philip Rizk

Philip Rizk, a 26-year-old student of Middle Eastern studies at the American University in Cairo, was detained Friday and his whereabouts is unknown, said anti-torture activist Aida Seif El Dawla.

A security official confirmed Rizk’s detention but gave no other details. He spoke on condition of anonymity because he is not authorized to speak with the press.

Egyptian authorities regularly detain activists deemed critical of the government, holding many of them in undisclosed locations without charge. Rights groups have accused authorities of abusing detainees.

Rizk contributed to a blog about the Gaza Strip that includes recent postings about the 22-day Israeli military offensive against the territory’s Hamas rulers. Some of the postings criticized the Egyptian government’s response, accusing it of allowing only small numbers of injured Palestinians to cross into Egypt for medical treatment.

Egypt’s government is sensitive to accusations that it contributed to suffering in Gaza by not opening the border to more aid shipments.

A photograph of Rizk taken by other demonstrators at Friday’s rally shows him holding a sign reading: “We have had it. Open Rafah crossing,” referring to the border terminal between Gaza and Egypt.

El Dawla, who runs an organization helping victims of torture called the Nadim Center, said police asking for Rizk by name took him from a group of a fellow protesters traveling back to Cairo Friday in a minibus. He was then taken away in a van with no license plate.

Rizk’s parents filed a complaint with a public prosecutor’s office and were told only that the student was being held by State Security, she said.

“He is in the custody of State Security, which means illegal detention and a high probability of torture and ill treatment,” she said. “The fact that they are not saying where he is is very worrying.”

Authorities have not given a reason for Rizk’s detention or announced any charges against him, El Dawla said.

Friends and supporters of Rizk spread word of his detention on the social networking Web site Facebook. They also wrote a letter to the board of trustees of the American University to call on them to seek his release. A rally was held Sunday at the university to demand his release.

The university said in a written statement that it was “working with Egyptian authorities to ascertain Rizk’s status.”

“The university shares the concern for his health and safety with his family and friends and is doing all that it can to ensure his release.”

Rizk, whose mother is German and whose father is Egyptian, holds dual nationality. The German Embassy in Cairo could not be reached for comment Sunday.

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